Tag Archives: Essay

Thoughts, and Prayers

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the use of the phrase “thoughts and prayers,” and its use after events of loss and suffering.  We all tend to say it.  Your best friend’s Grandmother passes away, and your response is “my thoughts and prayers are with you in your time of loss.”

What does this phrase mean?  Thoughts and prayers of what, exactly.

In this case, I think these are thoughts of sympathy (or empathy) and prayers of comfort directed towards those who have lost someone.  The thoughts are just to let the person know that you have them on your mind. It seems kind, and harmless, but I believe that this is most meaningful when you know them, or have shared the relationship that they just lost.  Prayers of comfort (in our society, from my perspective) stem from the Judeo-Christian belief in an all-powerful God, one who can (for lack of a better word) gather you up and give you a big spiritual hug.  I believe this expression is less effective (for the person who experienced the loss) when you don’t really know them, or you sense that the conveyance of sympathy is insincere.  The issue of late, where our nation’s leaders express their sympathies (time and again) over a repetitious tragedy – that could have been avoided – is an example of this.  Their approach to this expression of sympathy weakens the concept of prayer.  Why? Prayers are supposed to be powerful, they are intended to reach us, change us, and help us.

Let’s talk about prayers a bit.  There are different kinds of prayers:   thanks, confession, hope, comfort, deliverance – to categorize a few.  All prayers are goal oriented.  They are intentional- to get us to believe, to convict our minds of something, to help out someone, to give ourselves clarity, etc.  They are meant to spur us to action.  The strength of our humanity is in our ability to act, in compassion, of one mind.  I think prayer facilitates this.

But the issue is, you must act.  Prayer without action at some point, is empty.  The very act of prayer should indicate that you are considering a problem that needs a solution. Our lawmakers offering their prayers to those who have lost loved ones in a senseless mass killing is an empty platitude without some intention to make their suffering worth the cost.

Churches should know the power of collective and intentional prayer. It is the “superpower” of churches (I know it sounds silly, but in today’s language – this is it). Yet, I believe, in these times the focus has been misguided.  Too many are concerned with their belief that “we” have pushed God out of society and they pray for supernatural intervention.  First of all, the idea that an all-powerful, ever-present God could be pushed out is – ludicrous.  Did you ever think that God may have taught us about prayer so that we could discern and then act with conviction to make changes that impact each of our lives, to meet people where they are, to comfort them out of love, or to right wrongs? Perhaps, that it is a lesson to learn to be more like him.

This is complex, but not hard.  Lawmakers should take up and pass better legislation that reduces assault weapon availability and improves mental health assistance. It is heartless and cowardly to not do so.  Those who pray for supernatural intervention should pray themselves for discernment about the importance of lawmakers who can act in the best interests of all humanity, collectively and individually.  They could also pray for strength to act out of love – not morality, not condemnation, not prejudice, not to point out faults, and most of all – to not be afraid to admit they are wrong.

And then do it.

 

Books and Thoughts

If you’ve happened upon this post – Thanks for visiting. Normally, I post poetry because this is a convenient outlet for expression.

If you’ll indulge me, I don’t feel much like writing poetry today, so I think I’ll just write…

Books I’ve read/am reading

I just finished An Instance of the Fingerpost, by Iain Pears. I bought this second-hand on my birthday over a year ago. It is an ambitious novel, and the premise is intriguing – to tell the story of a crime from multiple points of view. The story is filled with twists, perspectives, unreliable narrators, and Dickensian description and dialogue – this aspect which made it difficult for me to engage (which is why it took me so long to finish it). The ending was worth the effort. And in thinking back on how the story was told and the details that the author integrated into each account of the tale, the work was well done.

As I tend to read books in batches to find one that latches my interest, the next book I finish could be among these: A Doubter’s Almanac, by Ethan Canin, A Killing Term, by Robyn Sheffield, Bloodline, by James Rollins, or The Shack, by William Paul Young. My reading interests are diverse. 🙂

What to do about Confederate Statues

I find the debate of what to do about statues to confederate civil war icons (note I did not say heroes) and symbols both troubling and cathartic. I will state upfront that I am a southerner, born and raised, though I have live much of my adult life in the midwest. During my childhood, I was enamoured with the romantic view of the south (Antebellum plantations, the Lost Cause, Civil War history). As a young reader, one of my favorite books was the Robert E. Lee biography in the “Who was” juvenile biography series ( along with JFK and The Wright Brothers!). My continued experience and education has helped shape a more well-rounded view of these events. I still have an interest in Civil War history and writers of that period, but do not hold such a romantic view of the South’s intentions and reasons for seceding. Nevertheless, I consider it an important part of our country’s heritage and growth.

Statues are reminders of history and should be contextual in their placement. I think it is impossible to not have statues of some of these figures of history, even if they were on the wrong side of the Civil War. Exclude those explicitly guilty of war crimes (You don’t see statues of Nazi leaders-and rightfully so- for this reason). Statues of Robert E. Lee and others are appropriate in certain locations – war cemeteries, battlefields, museums – but less so in other places – every deep south courthouse or public park (what is the historical significance?). I don’t understand why there are statues to Lee in Montana or Ohio. There is common sense that could be applied by local governments. Confederate flags should not be on display at public buildings, but are appropriate symbology at confederate battlefields and cemeteries (It’s probably OK at NASCAR races, too, because I don’t want to antagonize THAT many people) 🙂

What is troubling is the amount of time being given to extreme viewpoints and attempts to legitimize them, when their only goal is to disrupt peaceful discussion and incite hate and violence. Further, they have taken the iconography of confederate civil war symbols and combined it with the message and symbology of nazism and white supremacy. This is not American, nor does it reflect the context of our history. They don’t get to abduct this part of our history and manipulate it for their ends. Our nation was founded on principles of compromise and civil discourse. There are differences of opinion, and there are cracks in the foundation because we are human. These groups don’t get to weasel in between the cracks and put up walls to divide us. As Americans, we should not stand for hate or divisiveness. We’ve already fought over that and learned good, albeit painful lessons.

American history is rife with right and wrong, and lessons to learn. And too often, I think we place our 21st century perspective on events of the past without first seeking to understand the past. What is most important is how well the history is recorded. I see history as way to learn (as a society) from mistakes as well as point to moments of success together. Is there equal balance in books and essays and can the information be taught to succeeding generations so they have a good perspective of the issues of the past, the philosophy of the era, and what was learned from it. We should never aspire to go back to the way things were, but we need to shoulder our history and learn from it ways to improve moving forward. As long as we have books, and we teach and discuss the historical subjects openly and without bias, our history won’t vanish (as some of our fear-mongering ‘leaders’ have implied). Statues without stories give us nothing to keep the historical perspective and invite bias. Bias invites extremism and silos of isolation (people who think like ‘we’ do), along with walls and media outlets that fuel and inflame. And if we continue to build walls around (literally and figuratively), all we will accomplish is division. Abraham Lincoln had something to say about divided houses.

We are all engaged in telling the story of America much in the way I tried to describe the book I just finished. There are events that are observed and experienced by different people who bring different perspectives. The different stories can be skewed by personal motives, some are unreliable and others rooted in fact. America is still a young country by global standards. Yet, we fight battles as old as civilization itself – and it is important to remember -prejudice and hate have no place in our discourse. Don’t be fooled by prejudice disguised as patriotism – Our history defines our path very clearly on this.

More Snippets

I was reminded this week that I could update snippets, those that I briefly discussed here back on February 14th. I did that because I felt like it, not that it was a regular featured aspect of this blog (most of which is just rambly poetry things).

What I am reading. I finally did finish reading The Monuments Men back in May. Interestingly, I read most of it while on a trip to Germany, when suddenly all the place names made much more sense. On the trip, my son, father, and I visited Neuschwanstein Castle, where one of the pivotal finds in the book takes place.

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I cheated a bit as well, since one of the in-flight movies was The Monuments Men. The book, as mentioned before, reads as a very dry account of events.The movie was a little better than I expected, given some of the luke-warm reviews that it received. I felt that it did a reasonable job of dramatizing, by combining some characters, making you a little more invested in their work and relationships. What you do come away with is a sense of dedication of these men, who weren’t soldiers and didn’t really fit in, but were very passionate about the art they were trying to save. And much respect goes to Rose Valland, who single-handedly collected information about looted art shipments while working at the Jeu de Paume Museum in occupied France.

So with that book finished, I have moved on to The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway. Billed as a time travel novel, it is something of an anomaly…at least to me…think of The Matrix, The Time Machine, Wuthering Heights, all rolled up into a historical fiction plot amid the political times surrounding the Corn Laws and Reform Acts in Great Britain, and about an unknown society of people who have the gift of controlling time.

What I am listening to: I am a man of eclectic tastes. Earlier this year I discovered The Decemberists and The Henry Girls. Very good working music…I’ve also become enamored with the soundtrack to Les Miserables, even the movie version in which everyone involved (even Russell Crowe) gives a very good accounting of themselves. And for another version, check out this video of the Santa Clara Vanguard Drum and Bugle Corps performing an encore of their 2013 version of Les Miserables. Very, very, nice.

What I am writing In February, I mentioned that I entered an essay contest. This was sponsored by The Center for Homeland Security and Defense. My essay was not selected among the finalists. You can read the finalists’ essays here. All are quite good and well-deserving of recognition. If you’re curious/a glutton for dry reading/ really, really wish to read my essay, drop me an email and I’ll send you a copy. I thought about posting it here…but it doesn’t really fit the intention of this blog.

In other writing, I am looking for other poetry contests, journals, online literature blogs, and am still considering how to construct a chap-book. I haven’t had any great concept ideas yet, but I’m still interested in doing this. I know I need a reader/editor to help me with this, and I guess I haven’t found anyone suitable yet.

Any volunteers can email me. 🙂